If your experience of yoga has always been on a mat, you may share some of the common misunderstandings about the practice known as chair yoga (also sometimes called chair-supported yoga). You may think it is a type of “yoga lite,” meant for people who are too frail or too limited in their mobility to practice “real” yoga. But nothing could be further from the truth. Chair yoga, when taught well, is very much a “real” yoga practice, offering all the challenges and benefits that come with any other type of yoga.
Chair yoga certainly is a great option for beginners, seniors, and people with limited mobility. Some people choose chair yoga over traditional mat-based yoga because they don’t like getting on and off the floor, or because they find sitting on the floor for long stretches is uncomfortable. Others are uncertain in their balance and prefer to have the security of using a chair as a balance aid. And some beginners turn to chair yoga because they believe it will be a more gentle, less intimidating introduction to a new practice.
But the enjoyment and benefits of chair yoga are also available to anyone who wants to give it a try, regardless of their level of fitness or their previous yoga experience. A typical chair yoga session involves breath work, seated stretches, standing and balancing poses, and a final relaxation practice, much like a traditional mat-based class. The chair serves not just as a seat, but also as a prop, similar to the blocks, straps, or blankets that are sometimes used in other yoga practices. Some folks with stressful or tedious desk jobs even take mini-breaks throughout the day to practice a little yoga right their in their office chairs.
Gordon Kanzer, who teaches chair-supported classes for Yoga Neighborhood explains it well: “In the practice of chair yoga, the chair is this wonderful tool to establish balance so that the mind is not clouded by feelings of discomfort or negative self-judgments, but rather clear to connect the breath to one's unique movements and to connect to one's true self.”
Not sure if chair yoga is for you? Why not give it a try and see for yourself. Beginning on July 7, 2021, Yoga Neighborhood is returning to the Youth and Community Center in Hyannis with a weekly chair yoga session on Wednesdays at 11:30-12:30. (Class time will change to 10:00 AM beginning in September.) This community class is donation based, so it costs only as much as you choose to pay. In the coming weeks and months, we expect to add more weekly chair yoga opportunities at other locations as well.
In addition, we have an ongoing chair yoga class through the Cape Cod Veterans Center, designed specifically for older or disabled vets who are looking for a practice that allows them to remain seated throughout and focus on gentle stretches and breathing exercises. The class is offered online at this time, but we hope to be returning to in-person classes at the Center soon. If you or a loved one is a veteran who find this idea appealing, contact the Veterans Center directly to find out how to join in.
As the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs confirms in a pamphlet promoting chair yoga: “Yoga is for everyone; any age, or state of fitness. Yoga can calm your mind and strengthen your body.” We at Yoga Neighborhood couldn’t agree more, and we hope to see you soon at one of our chair yoga programs. We think you’ll be glad you gave it a try.